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June 18, 2017

Damaged democracy in Moldova

What do we know about Moldova, a small (about 3 million people) country in Central Europe? We have heard something about the Transnistrian conflict that divided the territory of this post-Soviet republic into two unequal parts. We know that there, after a long time of communist power, a pro-Western government, pursuing a course of European integration, was established. And, almost certainly, we read something about the so-called “banking scandal”, when several hundred million dollars were withdrawn from the banking system of Moldova. But we almost certainly did not hear anything about the fact that today in Moldova a person who became the main victim of the “banking scandal” who has taken the liberty to expose the true authors of this grandiose scam from the highest level of the country’s government is being subjected to judicial persecution.

Ilan Shor, a 30-year-old businessman and politician, mayor of the city of Orhei, 40 kilometers from the capital of Moldova, leader of the Sor Party. Former Moldovan Prime Minister Vladimir Filat, using specific mechanisms of the state’s influence on business, imposed him the state-owned Banca de Economii. For many years this state-owned bank was a source of enrichment of the governemntal officials. The facts revealed in the course of numerous investigations, demonstrate that the practice of giving non-performing loans without collateral to firms close to the leaders of the country was long-standing and generally accepted. According to the plan of Mr. Filat, the young businessman Ilan Shor was called to hide the traces of these long-term thefts. How? Very simple. To do this, they have to withdraw the funds from the bank and accuse Mr. Shor of stealing all the money, including those that had been plundered back in those days when Shor was a young child.

Up to a certain time, this plan was working. Filat forced Shor to extend loans in the amount of EUR 250 million, that still were in the bank, to the companies behind which was Filat. But, having realized in good time that he had the role of a “scapegoat” in this dirty story, Shor suddenly gave himself up to the authorities. According to the Moldavian laws, this would have led him out of criminal prosecution. But this is according to the laws, which in a small, split and very corrupt Moldova work as it needs to authorities.

Filat was detained and convicted. But after a year during which Shor managed to become an effective mayor and a popular political leader, he again found himself under house arrest. This measure of restraint in relation to Ilan Shor, which the Member of European Parliament Lorenzo Fontana called “disproportionately severe”, turns exactly one year on June 22. The specifics of the Moldavian laws is such that if Mr. Shor is not convicted during the year, he should be released. However, the specifics of the application of laws in the Republic of Moldova does not allow the politician to count on a favorable outcome.

In any case, the legal team of Ilan Shor, represented by Denis Ulanov and Julian Balan, arrived in Strasbourg, where, together with the vice-chairman of the party he led, Marina Tauber, they were invited by the Members of European Parliament, provided a lot of evidence of illegal and unfair treatment of their client. According to Mr. Ulanov, the detention and arrest of Ilan Shor after the full confession in the course of which he pointed to the true beneficiaries of the theft, is contrary to the Moldavian legislation and the practice of the European Court of Human Rights. And the second lawyer, Julian Belan, cited all legal actions lost in the ECHR in similar cases. Some of them are from the familiar to Moldovan judges legal practice in the Republic of Moldova.

The political nature of the persecution of Ilan Shor is manifested, according to Denis Ulanov, in the constant pressure on the court by political figures and the mass media controlled by them. So, Ion Cheban, adviser to the pro-Russian president Igor Dodon publicly stated that “Shor must move to prison and so this will be right.” According to lawyer Julian Balan, prosecutors conducting Shor’s case repeatedly stated that they intend to obtain sentencing to Ilan Shor before June 22. Whats is also regarded by the lawyers as pressure on the court. The intention of the prosecutor’s office to demand an extension of the arrest for Ilan Shor in the event that the verdict to him will not be pronounced until June 22 is also not from the field of jurisprudence.

European deputies, who met with political representatives and legal consultants of the Moldovan businessman and politician, seem to share the concern of the team of Ilan Shor. High powered European politicians representing the largest political group of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament Elizabeth Gardini, Alberto Cirio, the representative of the Lega Nord Lorenzo Fontana and Jean-Luc Schafhauser after discussions with the delegation from Moldova said that they intend to take the Shor case under control, raise the issue to the highest level of relations between Moldova and the European Union.

But will the close attention of European structures be a sufficient signal for Moldovan justice, subjected to political influence? In any case, a letter demanding an unbiased attitude to the case by European MP Lorenzo Fontana caused obvious irritation of the prosecutor Morar, who “advised” the member of the European Parliament “not to interfere”.

It is already known that out of 20 witnesses, declared by the defense, the judges left only six. And if the witnesses of the prosecution were heard for eight months, then the witnesses of the defense are scheduled to pass through the court hearings in a few days, as on the conveyor belt. It was also announced that in the days remaining until June 22, the court hearings on the “Shor case” will take place daily. To “fit” into formal, statutory deadlines before it’s too late. But, it seems, not at all to establish the truth.

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